[ProgressiveEd] Fwd: JROTC under fire in US high schools

[email protected] [email protected]
Mon, 24 Mar 2003 12:06:56 EST

Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
I think it's important for us to remain aware of the efforts being made to 
militarize the schools. Carol
Content-Type: message/rfc822
Content-Disposition: inline
Return-Path: <[email protected]>
Received: from  rly-xk03.mx.aol.com (rly-xk03.mail.aol.com []) by air-xk04.mail.aol.com (v92.17) with ESMTP id MAILINXK43-4f463e7ea861379; Mon, 24 Mar 2003 01:40:37 -0500
Received: from  snipe.mail.pas.earthlink.net (snipe.mail.pas.earthlink.net []) by rly-xk03.mx.aol.com (v92.16) with ESMTP id MAILRELAYINXK35-5873e7ea83c33c; Mon, 24 Mar 2003 01:39:59 -0500
Received: from user-2ive71c.dialup.mindspring.com ([] helo=hrieuzjk)
	by snipe.mail.pas.earthlink.net with esmtp (Exim 3.33 #1)
	id 18xLcb-00019C-00; Sun, 23 Mar 2003 22:39:50 -0800
Message-ID: <016601c2f1cf$cd670400$2c1cf7a5@hrieuzjk>
From: "David Pugh" <[email protected]>
To: "Education Committee" <[email protected]>
Subject: JROTC under fire in US high schools
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 2003 10:08:17 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.50.4522.1200
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.50.4522.1200
Check the link for a photo of what JROTC cadets do best: fold the flag.
Posted on Wed, Mar. 19, 2003
[email protected]
AS THE NATION marches toward war with Iraq, another showdown is brewing over
the U.S. military's rapid movement on a homeland front: public schools.
Ground zero in the mounting tensions is right here in the School District of
Philadelphia, where Chief Executive Officer Paul Vallas plans to open a
military high school this fall and increase the number of military education
programs across the city.
Parents, teachers, students and peaceniks have been lining up at School
Reform Commission meetings to denounce or praise Vallas' plans.
Foes argue that at a time of impending war, the military should not be
allowed greater access to the district's impressionable and mostly minority
and impoverished teen-agers.
Not ever, believes John Grant, president of the Philadelphia chapter of
Veterans For Peace.
"The idea of moving military education down into the schools... gets pretty
spooky to me," said Grant, who served in Vietnam in 1967 and '68. "Of
course, it's not literally a tool of recruitment. But it is a tool of
indoctrination," he said.
"I would like these kids to have more options, like college," Grant added.
At last week's commission meeting, a group of African-American Air Force
cadets from West Philadelphia High School's Junior Reserve Officer Training
Corps "came to represent" the other side.
"A lot of the statements that critics make are ignorant. They're on the
outside looking in, but they never took the time to come inside so they can
experience what we experience," Cadet Col. Kwende Jackson, 18, said after
the meeting.
"In my community a lot of us grew up in single-parent homes," said Jackson,
who has signed up with the Air Force. "So, that family feeling and
discipline is what we need. That's what really attracts black students."
Calls to a dozen of the largest local school districts indicated that they
have no plans to build military schools.
Elsewhere, opposition to military education has bottled up plans to open a
military high school in Cincinnati, and the Marines scrapped plans to start
a JROTC unit at an Albany, N.Y., high school after opposed students gathered
600 signatures during a petition drive a few years ago.
Thus far, Vallas' plans have not been challenged by the four reform
commissioners, and Mayor Street's education secretary, Debra Kahn, has
signaled her approval.
"Over the years, I have been quite impressed with the students in our JROTC
programs," Kahn said. "I think it's a mistake to make this a political issue
and to make it appear that students are being forced in to this. It's not
The opposition is "borderline ridiculous," said Vallas, who made the Chicago
public schools the most militarized in the nation during his tenure as chief
executive there, from 1995 to 2001.
Just over 10,000 Chicago student cadets are enrolled in three full-scale
military high schools, seven smaller military academies in traditional high
schools and 44 JROTC units. In addition, 500 middle school cadets are
enrolled in JROTC programs at high schools after school.
JROTC class is an elective in traditional schools and a requirement in
military schools. Retired military personnel or members of reserve units
teach the classes, and are forbidden to double as military recruiters. They
instead instruct students on the value of citizenship, leadership, service
to the community and military history.
"The bottom line is, these are high-standard, high school programs," Vallas
said during an interview, "designed to build strong minds, strong character
and strong bodies."
This year the district is spending $1.4 million to support JROTC programs at
eight of its 45 high schools. A ninth program will open by summer at
Benjamin Franklin High School.
Philadelphia's military high school won't have an academic entrance
requirement and will be open to students in every part of the city, Vallas
said. Schools will be given a chance this spring to apply to start JROTC
units rather than having the programs forced on them.
Officials said a second military high could open here as early as the fall
of 2004.
An example
Vallas points with pride to the handsome Chicago Military Academy at
Bronzeville as an example of what a military high school can be like, though
students there must meet academic requirements to be admitted.
The magnet school opened in 1999 on Chicago's South Side in a former armory
that was once headquarters for a storied African-American regiment.
About 1,350 students applied for the 200 seats in the freshman class this
past fall, the school's officials say.
"It has literally become a museum for African-American heroes, it's become
almost a Mecca. Every year the Tuskegee Airmen and others come to that
school to participate in events because of what the school has come to
symbolize," Vallas said, during a contentious reform commission meeting this
To help him build such schools here, Vallas in November appointed retired
Army Lt. Col. Russell Gallagher as the first district-wide director of
"The military has always been controversial, because the perception is we
are training steely-eyed killers - and we are not," said Gallagher, who had
headed Roxborough High's JROTC program for seven years.
The district does not keep statistics on its JROTC cadets who enlist, he
To recruit, or not to recruit?
In February 2000, Secretary of Defense William Cohen gave anti-JROTC critics
ammunition when he told the House Armed Services Committee that JROTC "is
one of the best recruiting devices that we could have."
But spokesmen for the four armed service branches told the Daily News that
recruitment is not an objective of JROTC. They were adamant despite a U.S.
Department of Defense estimate that about 40 percent of JROTC cadets who
graduate join the military - through enlistment, the reserves, college ROTC
or as a cadet at the branches' service academies.
That's good news for the military, whose recruitment appetite is
never-ending despite posting better retention figures in recent years due to
better pay and benefits for service men and women.
For this fiscal year, the Army's recruiting goal is 73,800 new soldiers, the
Navy needs 44,809, the Air Force needs 37,000 and the Marines need 38,527,
the branches' respective spokesmen said.
The controversy over whether or not JROTC is a recruitment tool has not
stymied the proliferation of the program across the nation.
>From Philadelphia to suburban Washington, D.C., to Oakland, Calif., school
officials and the military have been working like never before to open
military high schools - like Chicago's Bronzeville - and to increase the
number of JROTC units in schools.
That synergy - which can be traced in earnest to the early 1990s - will
result in nearly 500,000 high school students enrolling in 3,191 JROTC units
nationwide this year, according to the Defense Department. That's a growth
of 467 units since 2000.
In addition to the military high school that will open here in September,
Vallas said, existing JROTC programs at four high schools will be beefed up
to become smaller military academies within other schools - by 2007.
Nationally, the Army sponsors 1,510 JROTC units, the Air Force 817, the Navy
624 and the Marine Corps 240.
The Department of Defense pays half the salaries of JROTC instructors and
covers the cost of textbooks, uniforms and other materials.
Still, critics contend the money big-city school districts like Philadelphia
use to support JROTC would be better spent preparing their mostly black and
brown cadets for college, trade school and the work world.
"There are some students who are treated as if they are educable, and then
there are those who are handed over to other options," said Harold Jordan,
executive director of the Philadelphia-based National Coalition of Education
Activists, which opposes the military in schools.
Jordan, whose two children are enrolled at the district's elite magnet
Masterman School, is himself an Army brat. His late father, an Army captain
and doctor, is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His mother was a
member of the first African-American Women's Army Corps that served overseas
during World War II.
But 25 years of researching the military's involvement with public schools
has led Jordan to believe it's a bad mix.
JROTC textbooks give more space to presenting the military as an attractive
career choice than to other professions, Jordan said.
"Going into the military is different from any other job. You are being
asked to give your life and take a life on command. So, it has to be treated
more seriously than if you are selling just another profession," he said.
"It's not just about the little economic benefits."
Critics also knock JROTC on academic grounds. Various studies have found
that JROTC cadets, while in trouble less than their peers, typically score
no better on standardized tests.
The Philadelphia school district is on much sounder footing linking up with
companies such as IBM and Coca-Cola than the military, recently retired
teacher Dennis Barnebey told the reform commission.
"Let JROTC exist, but outside of our schools. Let our schools be places
where the talent of our students is exhibited through research projects, art
exhibits, music productions," he said, "not through marching maneuvers while
in full-dress uniforms."
Marching forward
Like President Bush, the Vallas administration is moving forward with its
military-school plans in the face of opposition. Vallas, who spent two years
in ROTC in college and 14 years with the reserves, does not plan to hold
public hearings on whether to open military high schools.
Instead, he's moving quickly to get it done.
The U.S. Naval Shipyard in South Philadelphia and the Frankford Arsenal in
Bridesburg are likely sites to build the two military schools, said Creg
Williams, deputy chief academic officer.
One school will open in September, he said, the other a year after that. A
decision on the first site should be made next month.
"One of the things you want to do when opening a military academy is look at
space for drills - inside and outside formation space," said Williams, who
noted that both sites possess ample green space and buildings that can be
renovated for school needs.
Despite the opposition, Williams said, the district expects the high schools
to be popular, partly because they will not have stringent magnet school
entrance requirements.
"It's really about giving our young people choices."